Jun 12, 2019 - Technology

Facebook rolls out new shows and strategy for "Watch"

Facebook announced on Wednesday a fresh slate of news shows for its video tab "Watch," along with updates on strategy and monetization on the platform. It added that its audience for "Watch" has roughly doubled since December, signaling that its plan to take on YouTube as the world's premier social video destination is taking shape.

Why it matters: Watch intends to help Facebook grow its audience and ad business. To date, Facebook has made most of its money from display ads — which mainly cater to advertisers trying to sell things. Expanding its video platform will allow Facebook to sell more TV-like "brand" ads, which help businesses increase awareness.

Be smart: Watch also allows Facebook to develop more strategic relationships with its users by serving more high-quality, original content that's catered to their interests or communities. In the past, most video on Facebook was user-generated, which was good for driving social engagement, but not for developing loyalty.

What's new: Facebook is launching a slew of new news shows and resuming some existing shows, based off what has worked well over the past few months. Facebook is also continuing to fund publishers as they experiment with what works best on the platform.

  • Shows from ABC News, Univision and BuzzFeed News, Fox News, Business Insider and Group Nine will all return.
  • CNN’s “Anderson Cooper Full Circle” daily news program will drop off of Facebook next month, and will be replaced by a program this summer called "Go There," featuring a new format with corespondents using mobile footage and reporting.
  • "Our fans have noticed how, over the last few months, the design of our programming has really diverged from that of a traditional TV broadcast," said an ABC News spokesperson.

The big picture: Watch is still in an experimental phase, which is why some shows are being renewed and others aren't. Feedback to Axios from news companies suggests that shows with great visuals, raw and unfiltered footage and selfie-style reporting works best on the platform.

"What we wanted to learn through funding was if we work to create premium news content what would work best. We did a lot of news update programming and learned that people love top news headlines of the day. We will continue to fund that."
— Shelley Venus, global video lead, news partnerships at Facebook

By the numbers: Facebook said there are now more than 720 million people that engage with Watch monthly and 140 million people that engage with Watch daily.

  • Facebook defines engagement as visitors who spend at least 60 seconds with Watch per month or day.
  • Yes, but: As Axios has previously reported, those 60 seconds do not need to be consecutive, which means that "Watch" views can't be compared to TV views.
  • Regardless, Facebook said that on average, daily visitors spend more than 26 minutes in Watch, which means most people aren't just swiping through the video on their NewsFeed, but rather are spending a few minutes watching clips.

The bottom line: Facebook still sees Watch as an experiment, and will continue to test what works on the platform by funding shows and sharing feedback.

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